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Anh yêu em Tuyet...
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Tôi thương con trai của bố Luc…
a novel by nicholas sheridan stanton
LE PAPOUNET , Saturday, August 22nd, 2005…2:30pm
Randy Patel was seated at a small table outside near the railing at the busy restaurant. During the off season this place would be pretty much deserted at this time, but as August was the height of tourist season there were enough hungry travelers stopping in on their way to or from Cannes, Monte Carlo or Nice, the Holy Trinity of hot spots on the French Riviera, to keep the all five of the owner's kids working double time schlepping over priced pies that bore no resemblance whatsoever to what I was accustomed to back in the States. Actually, as I walked over to join Randy I overheard a couple patrons grousing about where they could find a decent slice in this town? They were obviously New Yorkers, an easy guess given their thick Bronx accents. Randy was staring out over the marina, sipping on a bottle of mineral water as the warm sea breeze brushed his long hair back and away from his face. He didn't notice me as I walked up to his table and was startled when I sat down across from him without announcing myself.
"JESUS PAT! You scared the shit out of me!" Randy blurted nearly dropping his bottle of fancy water over the railing.
"Sorry, I didn't want to disturb your concentration, you looked like you were thinking hard about something," I replied, apologizing as I took my seat.
"Well, at least you didn't say something stupid like penny for your thoughts," he muttered as he set his water down and wiped the sweating bottle down with the cloth napkin in his lap.
"Yeah, well that would have been quite an understatement given the current situation don't ya think?"
"Funny, you're a funny guy dude," Randy replied sarcastically, miffed and confused simultaneously at my cavalier attitude.
"Yeah, well it's too late for crying and too serious for panic so what are ya gonna do, right?" I said signaling for the waiter to stop by so I could order a vodka tonic.
"So Jack's on his way, I guess you heard that already," Randy said timidly.
"Yeah, so I heard. We both know why too so let's get our ducks in a row before he gets here," I said as the waiter arrived.
"Yes sir, what can I get for you?" he asked in perfect English without a trace of an accent. That was curious I thought?
"Vodka tonic please, with an extra lime and make it a double," I said ordering.
"Top shelf?" he asked.
"Sure," I answered.
"Grey Goose?" he added.
"Of course," I replied genuinely impressed. Usually I got the nose in the air treatment by the locals, I wasn't prepared for this level of attentiveness, grateful, but unprepared. The young man smiled and walked away, I smiled back and gave Randy an approving nod. Randy grinned, apparently the exchange had amused him and some of the tension seemed to have left his face.
"He's and exchange student from Hermosa Beach, California. Or so he says, who knows, for all I know he's a Parisian with a serious case of Yankee envy," Randy said, sipping his mineral water.
"Maybe, anyway it doesn't matter, it was nice stepping out of character for a minute," I replied.
"Now, I need you to explain to me in layman terms and with small words how you stumbled onto this jackpot file and how you went about covering your tracks when you routed the dough to the G.A.W.D. Foundation," I said calmly, doing my best to keep the conversation light.
"Well, essentially I triggered a cyber key when I hacked into the ship's computer system and somehow mirrored an encrypted code that must have been mistakenly layered close enough to the surface to allow my decipher algorithm to tap into both the ship's bank account and this hidden file's bank account, understand?" he asked. There was a brief moment of silence while I chewed on this information and Randy appeared annoyed by my puzzled expression.
"I lost you after cyber key, didn't I?" he asked disgusted by my ignorance.
"I told you SMALL WORDS!" I said defending myself.
"Right, well in a nutshell someone fucked up on Team Standard Pharm and left a calling card and a path to what I suspect was a slush fund. I say was because I'm reasonably sure it's been closed by now and the same someone is likely looking to erase any loose ends. By the way, in case you're wondering that would include us." Randy said calmly.
I hadn't considered the slush fun angle but I had thought about the repercussion part. Actually that was what I was concentrating on when I was counting ceiling fan revolutions back at the Châteaux. Randy seemed calmer now and I wondered why? Usually he was such a nervous Nelly? I chalked it up to "gallows peace" which is what most condemned men exhibit in the hour before their death. That may have been a bit melodramatic but then Randy was every bit the drama queen when it came down to it. No use winding him up, it would all come out in the wash when jack got here tomorrow. For now I just needed to know all of the facts.
"I see, so someone or some persons unknown were or are skimming a fair amount of cash from Jack's daddy Sanford? How much was in that account you tapped into exactly?" I asked.
"There was exactly 3.75 billion sitting in that little nest egg," Randy said with a wicked grin on his face.
"Are you kidding me? How do you hide that kind of loot from the company without setting off all kinds of forensic accounting alarms?" I asked aghast.
"Refresh my memory, how much of that did we funnel of there to G.A.W.D. again?"
"I pulled out the .75 part or 750 million and ran it through my wiz-bang washer dryer cyber-system," Randy answered before I could ask another inane question.
"That's HUGE! What were you thinking?" I managed to ask before he finished his confession.
"I wasn't thinking I was reacting. The program I wrote worked so well that it was onto the hidden file before I even knew it had found one. And before I could stop it there were all these zeros staring me in the face," he explained, the grin on his face turning to look of bewilderment. He continued, cutting me off before I could get a word in edgewise.
"I realized that somehow this file had bypassed all of the standard security countermeasures that ALL the offshore banking institutions had imbedded in their computer systems. Which meant that we were looking at a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I went for it, I just went for broke, ya know?" he said, his nervous Nelly characteristics beginning to show on his face now.
"Yes but really, Randy, three quarters of a billion dollars? How were you able to transfer so much so fast and not leave a trail?" I asked, feeling a little like a nervous Nelly my own self right about now.
"That wasn't hard. My program is cutting edge and allows computers to talk to each at a speed that the "experts" would say is impossible with today's technology. The pompous egghead pioneers of innovation in the world aren't able to fathom the complexity of my work. Even Jack will scoff when I explain it to him tomorrow. It would take him months to grasp the concept of my breakthrough. Think Star Trek and the difference between impulse power and warp speed. It's an order of magnitude on that scale, its brilliant!" Randy ranted, his pride trumping his fear for the moment.
I considered Randy's words for a couple of minutes and let him come back down to earth before I started in with the tough questions, like who in Standard Pharmaceutical would be bold enough to steal from Sanford Peck from the inside no less and right under his nose, and how far would they go to remain anonymous? What about Jack? What prompted him to beak with protocol and come out here so far ahead of schedule, and risk tipping off his Dad's infamous and formidable security team? And how secure was Randy's Laundromat anyway? The Princess Grace heist was just around the corner, are we a go or not? We were making a difference back in the world. G.A.W.D. had grown quickly thanks to Grover and Alma, not to mention an unwitting Sanford Peck. We had to keep going, we just had to!
"Was that lo-tech enough for you boss man?" Randy asked sarcastically, startling me back into the conversation.
"Yeah, oh yeah, sorry dude, I was just thinking that whoever that slush fund belongs to has to have balls as big as church bells to steal Big Daddy's cash from right under his nose , ya know what I mean?" I replied.
"I had the very same thought, and I did a little reverse engineering on that file's properties. And can you guess whose name came out in the wash? Never mind, you'll never guess. It was none other than the big cheese himself, Sanford freaking Peck!"
'You mean he's ripping off his own company? That doesn't sound right, that doesn't even make sense. Why?" I asked.
"No, it makes perfect sense really. Look the guy's spent most of his adult life building an empire on the seed money his old lady got from Daddy War-bucks, Grover Gateway. You didn't know that did you? Yeah man, Killeen Peck is Gateway's granddaughter, the old dude raised her himself after her parents were killed in a plane crash."
"You're kidding me, right?"
"So we've been holding up Peck and my G.A.W.D. partner at the same time?"
"Yep! Well, wait a minute, not exactly. You see Gateway never actually invested in Standard, Killeen's money was a gift, it was her dowry if you will, a fact that has troubled Sanford the rat from the beginning. Sanford Peck doesn't like having to share power with anyone, and with Grover gone maybe he's fretting about Killeen wanting to assume a role with the company, their company actually as technically she is the controlling shareholder. Yeah, I found that out too."
"Wow, this is too much," I said thinking aloud.
"Yeah it is and it gets better. Killeen and Jackson Peck are Grover Gateway's sole beneficiaries, the Gateway publishing empire goes to them after probate and get this; Jack is the sole heir in Killeen's personal will." Randy said excitedly, making a hollow clicking noise with tongue and winking back at me.
"How the hell did you dig up all of this personal information, isn't that lawyer/client privileged stuff?" I asked, impressed by the depth of Randy's ingenuity.
"I let the computers gossip with each other and just recorded the transcript. I'm freaking brilliant, remember!" he answered, buffing his nails on his shirt playfully.
"I see, sorry, what was I thinking? Man, if I were Killeen or Jack I would be a little nervous right about now," I said apologizing sarcastically.
"Ya think! Dude, there are some not very nice reports on file with a certain HMO hospital that suggest without saying so directly that Killeen Peck is already well aware of what Sanford is capable of. For that matter there are few files on Jack as well. This guy is a real tool and brother we ALL have something to worry about where he is concerned!" Randy exclaimed in a hushed tone as he leaned back in his chair and finished the rest of his mineral water.
"That explains why Jack was so eager to work with us. Looks like it had nothing to do with charity, I guessing more like revenge or retribution, and that makes me nervous. The apple rarely falls far from the tree and I'm wondering what Jack's thinking, especially now that I know his motivation," I said reading Randy's concurring expression.
"Jack's the lynchpin in the whole operation Pat, especially now that he is on the inside shielding us from Peck's security team," Randy said.
"I know, so I wondering how should we play this tomorrow when we hook up with him?" I replied.
"My mother always said honesty is the best policy. I say we lay all the cards on the table and see how he plays the hand. My gut says he's coming here to do the same. I think that whatever he's planning he needs us as much as we need him," Randy suggested.
"Your mom's a smart lady. My wife used to say the same thing. She said the truth was always best even when it hurt. Of course she was always better at giving her advise than taking it herself," I replied, concurring sarcastically.
We sat for a moment in silence and just stared past one another. I finished my vodka tonic and signaled our attentive young waiter to bring another. There were still a lot of details to discuss but we had gotten past the panic mode and could get on to a game plan for tomorrow. The others would have to be told about Randy's discoveries. I would get them all together on board Heckle later this evening. I made a mental note to bring plenty of pizza for the meeting to help keep Sandy from flying off the handle on a WTF rant. Change was his nemesis and food was the cure for the paranoia brought by any change to his fragile comfort zone. Well, food and plenty of beer!
"Okay, let's get back to the minor deets so I can intelligently follow the conversation tomorrow with the professor," I said winking at Randy.
"Deets?" he replied puzzled.
"Details," I explained.
"Oh, why didn't you just say so?" he replied in an annoyed tone.
"Sorry, just lay it on me dude, okay?" I said in my own annoyed tone.
He smiled weakly and pulled out a yellow quad pad and a ballpoint pen from the backpack resting beside his chair. Randy never went anywhere without his laptop and portable office, he was the consummate geek. I leaned forward onto my elbows and assumed my "paying attention" posture, prepared to be dazzled and confused by a whirlwind of facts and data. Oh joy…